Soldiers drop off toys at Santa Claus Inc.

This year, Santa Claus’ elves are wearing camouflage.

Soldiers from the 426th Civil Affairs Battalion in Upland last week dropped off three truckloads of toys at Santa Claus Inc., a 6,000-square-foot warehouse in San Bernardino that doubles as the North Pole.

Toys from Operation Toy Drop are among thousands of gifts that will make the holidays a little brighter for a record 17,000 underprivileged children in the San Bernardino, Colton, Redlands and Rialto school districts.

The local toy drop is part of a national event.

“This is the first year that Fort Bragg has expanded its toy drop to the West Coast,” said Jolyne Roberts, secretary of Family Readiness Group of the 426 Civil Affairs Battalion – Airborne.

“The toy drop project works in conjunction with the Kids Wish Network, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life for children in life-altering situations.”

Roberts estimated children’s clothing and about 2,000 toys were dropped off by Lt. Col. James Orbock, Capt. Patrick Smith and three other soldiers.

“At Fort Bragg, the airborne soldiers aren’t allowed to jump unless they take a toy with them,” she said.

Little trucks and cars, doll furniture, dolls, games, strollers, high chairs and car seats will join the thousands of gifts already collected by Santa Claus Inc. for distribution beginning next week.

Now in its 59th year, Santa Claus Inc. helps parents in need give to their children at Christmastime.

Santa’s North Pole workshop opens with an open house Monday; and distribution of gifts starting on Tuesday and continuing through Dec. 14.

“We are gearing up for lots of families this year,” said Karen DiCarlo, Santa Claus Inc. president and head elf.

“The need is so great,” she said. “All those people just flat out wouldn’t have a Christmas celebration. It’s important to help make their Christmas a little brighter.”

The nonprofit’s biggest fundraiser, the beautiful Christmas Tree Lane event, is set for Friday with a black-tie optional evening gala and a Saturday afternoon luncheon.

Held annually at the National Orange Show Events Center, this year’s gala, “Christmas Stroll on 5th Avenue,” will feature 15 fabulous designer-decorated Christmas trees, a gourmet dinner, dancing, live and silent auctions, a Macy’s Fashion Show, Cigar and Brandy Bar, and drawing for the trees and gifts.

Contra Costa Times
Contra Costa, California

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Kids Wish Network is a charitable organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children having experienced life-altering situations. Kids Wish Network assists children and their families through several key programs.